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Economic News Release
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Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-born Workers Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Friday, May 15, 2020 				  USDL-20-0922

Technical information:	cpsinfo@bls.gov  *  www.bls.gov/cps
Media contact:		(202) 691-5902  *  PressOffice@bls.gov


		   FOREIGN-BORN WORKERS: LABOR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS -- 2019


The unemployment rate for foreign-born persons in the United States was 3.1 percent in 2019,
down from 3.5 percent in 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The
jobless rate of native-born persons was 3.8 percent in 2019, down from 4.0 percent in 2018.

Data on nativity are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly 
sample survey of approximately 60,000 households. The foreign born are persons who reside
in the United States but who were not U.S. citizens at birth. Specifically, they were born
outside the United States (or one of its outlying areas such as Puerto Rico or Guam), and
neither parent was a U.S. citizen. The foreign born include legally-admitted immigrants,
refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented 
immigrants. However, the survey does not separately identify persons in these categories.
For further information about the survey, see the Technical Note in this news release.

Highlights from the 2019 data:

   --In 2019, there were 28.4 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force, 
     comprising 17.4 percent of the total. (See table 1.)

   --Hispanics continued to account for nearly half of the foreign-born labor force in
     2019, and Asians accounted for one-quarter. (See table 1.) (Data in this news release
     for persons who are White, Black, or Asian do not include those of Hispanic or Latino
     ethnicity. Data on persons of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity are presented separately.)

   --Foreign-born men were more likely to participate in the labor force than native-born
     men (78.0 percent compared with 67.4 percent), while foreign-born women were less 
     likely to participate in the labor force than native-born women (54.8 percent compared
     with 57.9 percent). (See table 1.)

   --Foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in 
     service occupations; natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations; and
     production, transportation, and material moving occupations. Foreign-born workers were
     less likely than native-born workers to be employed in management, professional, and
     related occupations and in sales and office occupations. (See table 4.)

   --The median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born full-time wage and salary workers were
     $800 in 2019, compared with $941 for their native-born counterparts. (See table 5.)
     (Differences in earnings reflect a variety of factors, including variations in the
     distributions of foreign-born and native-born workers by educational attainment, 
     occupation, industry, and geographic region.) 

Demographic Characteristics

The demographic composition of the foreign-born labor force differs from that of the native-
born labor force. In 2019, men accounted for 57.2 percent of the foreign-born labor force,
compared with 52.1 percent of the native-born labor force. By age, the proportion of the
foreign-born labor force made up of 25- to 54-year-olds (72.5 percent) was higher than for
the native-born labor force (61.8 percent). Labor force participation is typically highest
among persons in that age bracket. (See table 1.)

In 2019, nearly half (47.6 percent) of the foreign-born labor force was Hispanic, and one-
quarter (25.3 percent) was Asian. In 2019, Hispanics and Asians made up much lower 
percentages of the native-born labor force, at 11.5 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively.
About 16.4 percent of the foreign-born labor force was White and 9.6 percent was Black, 
compared with 71.1 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively, of the native-born labor force.

In terms of educational attainment, the proportion of the foreign-born labor force age 25
and over that had not completed high school was 20.4 percent in 2019, much higher than the
figure for the native-born labor force, at 3.9 percent. The foreign born were less likely 
than the native born to have some college or an associate degree--16.2 percent compared with
28.6 percent. The proportions for foreign-born and native-born high school graduates (24.9
percent compared with 25.5 percent) and those with a bachelor's degree or higher (38.6 
percent compared with 42.0 percent) were more similar.

Labor Force

In 2019, the share of the U.S. civilian labor force that was foreign born was 17.4 percent,
the same as in 2018. (See table 1.) The share of the U.S. civilian labor force that was
foreign born was 13.3 percent in 2000.

In 2019, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born edged up to 66.0 percent
from 65.7 percent in the prior year. The participation rate for the native born increased
to 62.5 percent in 2019 from 62.3 percent in 2018. 

Foreign-born men continued to participate in the labor force at a considerably higher rate
(78.0 percent) in 2019 than their native-born counterparts (67.4 percent). In contrast, 
54.8 percent of foreign-born women were labor force participants, somewhat lower than the 
rate of 57.9 percent for native-born women.

Labor force participation rates for the foreign-born varied across the major race and 
ethnicity groups in 2019, ranging from 60.3 percent for foreign-born Whites to 70.8 percent
for foreign-born Blacks. Participation rates for the native born showed less variation
across race and ethnicity groups, ranging from 61.1 percent for native-born Blacks to 65.4 
percent for native-born Hispanics. Across all race and ethnicity groups, participation 
rates showed little or no change from 2018 to 2019 for both the foreign born and the native
born, except for native-born Hispanics, whose rate increased from 64.5 percent to 65.4
percent. 

In 2019, foreign-born mothers with children under age 18 were less likely to be labor force
participants than native-born mothers--61.7 percent compared with 75.5 percent. Labor force
participation differences between foreign-born and native-born mothers were greater among
those with younger children than among those with older children. Among women with children
under age 6, the participation rate for foreign-born mothers was 52.6 percent, 17.7 
percentage points below that for native-born mothers, at 70.3 percent. In comparison, the 
labor force participation rate of foreign-born mothers with children ages 6 to 17 (68.0 
percent) was 11.6 percentage points lower than that for native-born mothers with children
ages 6 to 17 (79.6 percent). The labor force participation rates of foreign-born and
native-born fathers with children under age 18 were similar, at 93.9 percent and 93.2 
percent, respectively. (See table 2.)

By region, the foreign born made up a larger share of the labor force in the West (23.5
percent) and in the Northeast (20.2 percent) in 2019 than for the nation as a whole (17.4
percent). In contrast, the foreign born made up a smaller share of the labor force than for
the nation as a whole in the South (16.5 percent) and the Midwest (9.7 percent). (See 
table 6.) 

Unemployment

The unemployment rate of the foreign born declined from 3.5 percent to 3.1 percent from
2018 to 2019, and the jobless rate for the native born decreased from 4.0 percent to 3.8 
percent. For both the foreign born and the native born, the 2019 jobless rates were the
lowest in the history of the series (which date back to January 1996, when data for these
series first became available on a regular basis). The over-the-year decrease in the
unemployment rates of the foreign born and the native born reflected decreases in the rates
for both men and women. In 2019, the unemployment rates for foreign-born men and women were
2.7 percent and 3.7 percent, compared with 4.0 percent and 3.6 percent for native-born men 
and women. (See table 1.)

For both the foreign born and the native born, jobless rates vary considerably by race and
ethnicity. Among the foreign born, Blacks had the highest unemployment rate in 2019 (4.1
percent), followed by Hispanics (3.4 percent), Whites (2.9 percent), and Asians (2.4 
percent). Among the native born, Blacks also had the highest jobless rate (6.5 percent),
followed by Hispanics (5.1 percent), Asians (3.3 percent), and Whites (3.0 percent).

Occupation

In 2019, foreign-born workers continued to be more likely than native-born workers to be
employed in service occupations (22.5 percent compared with 16.0 percent); natural 
resources, construction, and maintenance occupations (13.4 percent compared with 8.2 
percent); and production, transportation, and material moving occupations (14.7 percent
compared with 11.2 percent). Foreign-born workers were less likely than native-born
workers to be employed in management, professional, and related occupations (33.9 percent
compared with 42.2 percent) and in sales and office occupations (15.5 percent compared
with 22.4 percent). (See table 4.)

In 2019, employed foreign-born men and women were more likely than their native-born
counterparts to work in service occupations; natural resources, construction, and
maintenance occupations; and production, transportation, and material moving occupations.
Among employed men, the disparity was especially great in natural resources, construction,
and maintenance occupations--21.8 percent of the foreign born worked in this occupational
field, compared with 15.0 percent of the native born. The occupational disparity for women
was pronounced in service occupations--31.4 percent of the foreign born worked in that 
occupation group, compared with 19.0 percent of the native born. By contrast, employed 
native-born men and women were more likely than their foreign-born counterparts to work in
management, professional, and related occupations and in sales and office occupations.

Earnings

In 2019, median usual weekly earnings of foreign-born, full-time wage and salary workers
($800) were 85.0 percent of the earnings of their native-born counterparts ($941). Among
men, median weekly earnings for the foreign born ($863) were 82.8 percent of the earnings 
of the native born ($1,042). Median earnings for foreign-born women ($719) were 85.5
percent of the earnings of native-born women ($841). (See table 5.) Differences in earnings
reflect a variety of factors, including variations in the distributions of foreign-born and
native-born workers by educational attainment, occupation, industry, and geographic region. 

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, Hispanic foreign-born full-time wage and salary
workers earned 86.7 percent as much as their native-born counterparts in 2019. For Black and
Asian workers, earnings for the foreign born and the native born were similar (less than a 
3 percent difference for both groups), while White foreign-born workers earned 12.3 percent
more than their native-born counterparts. 

The earnings of both foreign-born and native-born workers increase with education. In 2019,
foreign-born workers age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma earned $577 per
week, while those with a bachelor's degree and higher earned about 2.5 times as much--$1,418
per week. Among the native born, those with a bachelor's degree and higher earned 2.2 times
as much as those with less than a high school diploma--$1,360 compared with $617 per week.

Native-born workers earn more than the foreign born at most educational attainment levels.
For example, among high school graduates (no college), full-time workers who were foreign
born ($675) earned 88.1 percent as much as their native-born counterparts ($766) in 2019.
However, among those with a bachelor's degree and higher, the earnings of foreign-born 
workers ($1,418) were slightly higher than the earnings of native-born workers ($1,360).



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Last Modified Date: May 15, 2020